Proactively avoiding healthcare employee harassment

Healthcare employers have an obligation to provide a workplace free of harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. An employer with at least 15 employees must comply and proactively prevent a hostile work environment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Employers may face legal liability if coworkers, patients or clients harass their hired medical staff. Nurses, phlebotomists and other caregivers have a right to provide their services without experiencing hostilities because of their race or gender. Harassment may come from a facility’s staff or its patients.

Employees have a right to report inappropriate behavior

Harassment includes inappropriate touching, offensive comments or abusive behavior. As reported by NBC News, a 2018 survey of nurses noted that 71% said they cared for patients who harassed them.

While nurses and healthcare staff members owe a duty to treat ill or injured patients, Title VII protects them from harassment by the individuals they care for. Employers can help stop harassment by speaking with persons alleged to have engaged in misconduct. A supervisor may also reassign employees to other shifts and patients if they report unwanted advances or offensive behavior.

Retaliation may result in a legal action

Federal employment laws prohibit retaliating against an employee who reports harassment to a superior. If an employee expresses that an individual has made offensive remarks, for example, a subsequent termination or demotion of that employee may lead to a claim of retaliation. Aggrieved medical workers may file a legal action against an employer alleged to have engaged in an unlawful act.

A proactive approach to preventing workplace harassment may start with creating a policy document. Employers may use it to outline how employees and clients should interact and how they may file a complaint when a patient or coworker acts inappropriately.